Chief Justice John Roberts sidesteps Supreme Courtroom leaks and controversy

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It was one of the most controversial terms in Supreme Court history, with the shocking leak of a draft advisory opinion that eventually undid half a century of abortion rights, public polls showing record disapproval of the court’s work, and biting disagreements among the justices themselves over legitimacy of the court.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. chose not to address these or other controversies in his annual Year-end Report on the Federal Judiciary, released Saturday. Instead, he focused on a high point in the judiciary’s past — the efforts of a federal district judge to implement the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock after the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

“The law requires every judge to take an oath to do his job without fear or favor, but we must support the judges by keeping them safe,” Roberts wrote in his nine-page report. “A justice system cannot and should not live in fear. The events of Little Rock teach us how important it is to rule by the law rather than the mob.”

Roberts thanked Congress for the recent passage of the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, named for the son of New Jersey District Judge Esther Salas. Anderl was murdered in 2020 when he opened the door to their home in what was meant to be an attack on the judge.

Legislation allows judges to protect certain personal information about themselves and their families online, such as: B. Home addresses, some financial information, and employment details of their spouses. There is an exception for media coverage, but some transparency groups have feared a broad interpretation of the law could hamper efforts by surveillance agencies.

Roberts also commended “the U.S. Marshals, court security officers, federal security officers, Supreme Court police officers and their partners” for “dedicated to ensuring that judges can sit in courtrooms to serve the public for the coming year and beyond.”

That’s about as close as Roberts commented on today in his 18th report. The chief justice and other conservative members of the court have seen protesters outside their homes since a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked in May, in which a majority of the court overturned Roe v. Wade’s federal guarantee of abortion rights.

A California man is charged with attempted assassination after he was arrested outside Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s home in suburban Maryland with guns and a plan to break into the judge’s home.

Roberts announced an investigation into the leak of the Dobbs draft opinion in the spring, just days after its publication in Politico, calling it a “unique and egregious breach of trust that is an affront to the court and the community of public servants who work here.” “

He directed Supreme Court Marshal Gail A. Curley to investigate the leak and said that “to the extent that this betrayal of the Court’s confidential information was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it failed.” will”.

The man accused of threatening to kill Kavanaugh will be charged

But Roberts hasn’t publicly mentioned the investigation since. Last summer, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch said judges were expecting reports from Roberts on the work, but nothing was uncovered aside from leaked reports of disagreements between judges and their staff over attempts to examine cellphone recordings.

It’s just a controversy engulfing the court. Multiple media outlets reported what a former anti-abortion evangelical leader said was an effort to encourage conservative judges to be bold in making decisions about the procedure. Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. dismissed a specific allegation by Rev. Rob Schenck to the New York Times that the judge or his wife disclosed to conservative donors the outcome of a pending 2014 case on contraceptives and religious rights.

Alito denies disclosing the outcome of the 2014 case in advance

Congressional leaders asked the court to investigate, but Roberts, through counsel, said there was little to investigate after both Alito and the person he is believed to have given the information refused to do so.

Congressional Democrats have also questioned the efforts of Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, who are encouraging state legislators and White House officials to abandon efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election — reported by the Washington Post and others , to get her husband, Judge Clarence Thomas, to withdraw from litigation related to this issue.

These lawmakers have asked the court to create a more formal code of conduct to address such issues.

Three years ago, Judge Elena Kagan told a congressional committee that judges were “very seriously” considering having a code of conduct applicable only to the US Supreme Court. But aside from Roberts saying such decisions should be left to the judiciary alone, the chief justice has missed an opportunity to comment specifically on plans.

Some thought the Chief Justice would return to such matters in his annual message, traditionally published on New Year’s Eve.

Instead, Roberts highlighted the courage of Judge Ronald N. Davies, who was brought in from North Dakota to lead efforts to desegregate Little Rock’s Central High School over objections from Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus.

The bench, from which Davies presided, will be presented in 2023 as part of an exhibition about the Court’s role in desegregating schools and specifically the efforts of Thurgood Marshall, who served as Brown and later as the first black Supreme Court Justice argued, brought before the Supreme Court.

“The authentic bench will allow visitors to immerse themselves in the events of Little Rock 65 years ago, on the spot,” Roberts wrote. “The exhibit will introduce visitors to the workings of the federal court system, the history of segregation and desegregation in our country, and the outstanding contributions of Thurgood Marshall as an attorney before he became a judge.”

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